With only one location, it doesn’t have to worry about oil prices and their impact on the Alaskan economy, or foreclosure levels in Florida.
It’s because of this local, personalized banking atmosphere that Jason F. Price, who has led the bank for the past two months, accepted the position of Prime Alliance Bank’s President and Chief Executive Officer.
During his “big bank” career he has moved all over the country, and traded a position at Wachovia overseeing 28 offices in five different states and 500 employees to head this community bank.
“I love being at a community bank,” he said, returning to his Utah roots. He first worked for Universal Campus Credit Union in Utah County about 20 years ago.
So, after the failure of such community banks as Barnes Banking Company, what’s the condition of Prime Alliance Bank?
State and Federal regulators conduct audits of banks each year. After one conducted a little over a year ago at Prime Alliance, Price said “they were concerned about our concentrations in commercial real estate and construction lending. Virtually all of those loans were made to local builders. This is very typical of the issues facing community banks at the present time.
“When the economy turned, it got very difficult” for those business people to get loans and for banks, he said.
Fortunately, “We have been willing to lend to local businesses. Small businesses are what drive the economy,” he said.
Even though the bank is currently under a regulatory enforcement action, as many banks across the country find themselves, current conditions find the Woods Cross bank with a “strong capital position. We’re not having the capital or liquidity issues that many other community banks have had,” Price said.
As part of its proactive stance, the bank wrote down more than $14 million in real estate loans, recognizing that falling real estate values would likely cause issues in the future.
In addition, millions of dollars were placed in reserves in case of further deterioration in real estate values.
The bank has less than half its lending tied to real estate. It has lent hundreds of millions of dollars to local businesses since opening in 2004, helping the local economy, as is its intent, the bank’s website says.
“We are in the business of lending money, not in foreclosing on properties. We have found it to be in our best interest to work with our builders and developers to help them through these tough times. Not only does this help the bank, but this will also help our customers,” Price continued.
The big banks have really clamped down on lending to small businesses.
The best way for small and medium businesses to get a loan right now “is to go to a local, community bank,” he stated.
“In my opinion, the big banks focus on national issues. All we’re worried about is that our local economy is OK for our businesses and individual clients. We’re concerned about our little micro-economy,” he said.
“We’re members of the Rotary, chamber of commerce, volunteer heavily with local groups. We want this to be a better place to live and be focused on the local issues,” Price said.
The bank, founded in 2004, is moving into its sixth year. Val Petersen, a South Weber resident who has been in banking 30 years, is the CFO. Jeff Stringham, with a like amount of experience, is another key bank employee.
The bank consists of fewer than 20 employees, including those who just started working there after leaving Barnes, who share the same vision of improving the local economy and assisting its residents with their financial matters.
“Nobody has a company car. We all wear multiple hats,” Price said.
“All of the board live in a three-county area and drive to board meetings,” rather than fly in on a company jet, as with some of the big banks, he said. Price is not exempt from this office mentality.
For instance, one day he was in a suit working in his office. The next day, he was out clearing a lot on a bank owned piece of property, preparing it for sale.
“I’ll meet with anyone who wants to call me,” Price said. He referred to an instance where an “elderly gentleman,” the head of a homeowners’ association, asked to meet with him to clarify related rules and regulations.
“I helped him to understand the jargon. It had nothing to do with the bank,” Price said.
For more information about the bank, visit it’s website at www.primealliancebank.com.